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As a practitioner of a plant-based diet, it’s important to continue to expand your knowledge of fruits and vegetables. Using the same ingredients day in and day out can lead to cooking boredom. If you find yourself beginning to grow weary of your current recipe routine, try integrating this unique veggie into your diet! Chayote offers a great flavor palate and diversity when it comes to implementation in the kitchen.
What is Chayote?
While this exotic food is oftentimes mistaken as a fruit, Chayote is actually a vegetable in the gourd family similar to jicama. When ripe, this beautiful pear-shaped veggie has bright green to white coloring, a crunchy texture, and is pleasingly sweet. Chayote is happiest in hot climates, such as the tropical or subtropical locales of Florida, California, and the Gulf Coast, yet it originated in Mexico and Central America. The vegetable grows on the expansive and robust climbing perennial vines that can get up to fifty feet long. The outer layer of the veggie matures in a variety of ways including fuzzy, spikey, and smooth, yet all Chayote skins should have shallow vertical furrows.
Health Benefits of Chayote
As with most vegetables, chayote offers a host of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Yet, chayote is unique in the fact that it is incredibly low in unhealthy fats and is completely cholesterol free. Therefore, this gourd-like veggie is the perfect tasty addition to any diet with the added worries!
Cholesterol Free and Minimal Fat
Chayote has zero cholesterol and is incredibly low in fat providing only .1 gram per gourd. Therefore, this veggie is a perfect addition to plant-based dieters who are working on weight or cholesterol management. Plus, due to its squash-like similarities, you can substitute chayote for other sweeter squash varieties such as butternut and spaghetti.
Mineral and Vitamin Rich
Along with being cholesterol and unhealthy fat-free, this squash-like vegetable is also chalk full of minerals and vitamins. When it comes to vitamins, one chayote gourd offers vitamin C (10.2 milligrams), vitamin E (.2 milligrams), vitamin K (5.4 micrograms), and vitamin B6 (.1 milligrams). It is also a great source of niacin (.6 milligrams), folate (123 micrograms), and choline (12.1 milligrams). Chayote is also mineral-rich providing calcium (22.4 milligrams), iron (.4 milligrams), magnesium (15.8 milligrams), phosphorous (23.8 milligrams), potassium (165 milligrams), and sodium (2.6 milligrams), as well as trace amounts of zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium.
High in Fiber
Fiber is an essential part of a healthy diet. It helps with weight management, improves gut health, helps regulate and improve digestive health, has been shown to control blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol, and is an important additive to keeping you feeling full longer. Chayote is rich in fiber offering 3.5 grams per gourd.
Cooking with Chayote
Now you know what chayote is, where it grows, and why it’s healthy, so it’s time to implement this veggie into your daily routine. Luckily, this is easy. The entire chayote product can be eaten including the skin, seeds, flesh, and even the flower, roots, and leaves. With that said, as edible as it is, chayote should be used carefully for the best outcome. When it comes to taste it lands “somewhere between a potato and an apple, or a crisp pear.”
Source: Breakfast Quinoa Fruit Salad
Due to its high nutrient content, meaty texture, and slightly sweet flavor, Chayote is perfect for breakfast smoothies. For instance, substitute chayote for green apple in this Plant-Powered Muscle ‘Milk’ or simply add a few slices to this Peanut Butter, Banana, and Cauliflower smoothie. Chayote is also a great addition to your morning bowl of oats. Add or supplement a few slices to this Apple, Pecan, and Cinnamon Overnight Oats recipe, this Super Quick Chocolate Porridge recipe, or even this Breakfast Quinoa Fruit Salad.
When it comes to lunching with chayote, salads are the way to go. Their sweet and crunchy attributes add depth and flavor to your ordinary spinach concoction, while also inundating your meal with a host of nutrients. Make sure to balance out the “veggie-ness” of chayote with a simple fruit or refreshing salad dressing such as this Hearty Superfood Salad With Arugula, Kale, and Beets or this Fresh Summer Peach and Fennel Salad. With that said, if you prefer hearty, savory salads try substituting chayote for other veggies such zucchini in this Eggplant, Zucchini, and Walnut Salad or adding chayote to this Smoked Tofu Noodle Bowl With Spicy Avocado Cream Sauce.
Chayote may look like a sweet tropical lemon, but keep in mind that chayote is more similar to jicama than to honeydew. Therefore, eating raw chayote slices without any accouterments, unless a bit of sweet-bitter crunch is your jam, maybe a bit unpleasant. With that said, there are a host of ways to enjoy chayote as an easy snack. First and foremost, look to jicama recipes and simply substitute chayote such as these Mini Veggie Cucumber Wraps With Avocado Hummus or these Mushroom and Jicama Lettuce Wraps. Chayote, part of the gourd family, also bears resemblance to butternut squash and pumpkin. Therefore, try your hand at substituting chayote for squash-based snack recipes such as Butternut Squash Crostini With Cranberries and Tahini Dressing or this Sesame-Roasted Maple Chipotle Delicata Squash.
Source: Grilled Baby Summer Squash
As dinner rolls around, consider baking or roasting your chayote vegetable just as you would a spaghetti squash or potatoes. When cooking chayote’s, it’s best to half and remove the seeds or cut up into small squares. Due to their meaty texture and moist centers, chayote will crisp and brown deliciously with the appropriate oils and heat settings. Try substituting chayote in these traditional-gone-vegan potato and squash dinner recipes: Chili Cheez Fries, Pan-Roasted Herbed Potatoes, Smoked Paprika Potato Latkes, Grilled Baby Summer Squash, or this Nutty Quinoa Stuffed Delicata Squash.
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